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Tricks and treats: 25 tempting Halloween things to do in Chicago

From family-friendly pumpkin patches to ghastly haunted houses and everything in between, here are the some of the must-do events of the season.

5,000 hand-carved pumpkins (done in real time),  life-sized sculptures and classic Halloween characters line the trail of the Sensory Garden park during Jack’s Pumpkin Glow in Lisle.
5,000 hand-carved pumpkins (done in real time), life-sized sculptures and classic Halloween characters line the trail of the Sensory Garden park during Jack’s Pumpkin Glow in Lisle.
Courtesy Jack’s Pumpkin Glow

It’s the most wonderful time of the year when the Chicago area brings on its spookiest entertainment and thrills for Halloween. From family-friendly pumpkin patches to ghastly haunted houses and everything in between, here are the some of the must-do events of the season:

Jack’s Pumpkin Glow/Lisle: continuing through Oct. 27. Enjoy the glow of 5,000 hand-carved pumpkins (done in real time) and run into life-sized sculptures and classic Halloween characters lining the trail at Sensory Garden Playground, 2751 Navistar Dr., Lisle. Food and beverage and take-home pumpkins available, too. Adults: $22.99-$28.99; children (3 to 12) $16.99-$22.99. www.glowpumpkin.com

Jack’s Pumpkin Glow

Scream Scene/ Skokie Water Playground: continuing through Oct. 27. Now that the water has dried up from this summer destination, the ghouls have taken over in this frightening haunt featuring an insane clown maze. Not recommended for children under 10. Tickets: $12. www.screamscene.org

Skokie’s Water Playground has some ghoulish residents this Halloween. You can check it out through Oct. 27.
Skokie’s Water Playground has some ghoulish residents this Halloween. You can check it out through Oct. 27.
Courtesy Park District

Fall Fest/Lincoln Park Zoo: continuing through Oct. 27. Autumn becomes the zoo with a range of family-friendly activities including pumpkin picking, tips from professional carvers, hay mountains, a corn maze, inflatable obstacle course, and of course all the animals. Free to attend. www.lpzoo.org

Bring the whole family out to Fall Fest at Lincoln Park Zoo.
Bring the whole family out to Fall Fest at Lincoln Park Zoo.
Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo

Bengtson’s Pumpkin Fest/Homer Glen: continuing through Nov. 3. Stock up on pumpkins, apples and more for the fall season. In addition to a large pumpkin patch, there’s a haunted barn, pumpkin chucker, a petting zoo and good old-fashioned pig races. Weekday admission is discounted. All ages tickets: $11.99-22.99. www.pumpkinfarm.com

Frankenstein and a host of other ghouls await at 13th Floor/Melrose Park.
Frankenstein and a host of other ghouls await at 13th Floor/Melrose Park.
Courtesy 13th Floor

13th Floor/Melrose Park: continuing through Nov. 9. One of the most popular haunted houses in Chicagoland, and named one of the 5 most terrifying in the country by USA Today, this year’s brand-new themes include “Creature Feature” with classic movie characters and a trip to “The Other Side.” Tickets: $19.99-32.99. www.13thfloorchicago.com

The Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival/Highwood: October 11-13. One of the nation’s largest displays of pumpkins, this annual event attempts to break the Guinness World Record every year for number of gourds carved at one time. Also enjoy carnival rides, pumpkin pie eating contests, a petting zoo and more. All ages, $5 daily admission. www.highwoodpumpkinfest.com

You never know what nightmare awaits behind a locked door or a corner at the “IT” Pop-Up/Replay Lincoln Park.
You never know what nightmare awaits behind a locked door or a corner at the “IT” Pop-Up/Replay Lincoln Park.
Replay Lincoln Park

“IT” Pop-Up/Replay Lincoln Park: Oct. 11-31. The world of Stephen King’s nightmare comes to life in this new pop-up attraction at the popular arcade bar with custom artwork and several scary photo opportunities including the abandoned house, a funhouse and more. Signature cocktails, “IT” trivia and costume contests are planned. Free to attend; drinks and games extra. www.replaylincolnpark.com

“Hell Followed With Her”/Wildclaw Theatre: Oct. 11-Nov. 9. Bill Daniel’s classic showdown comes just in time for Halloween. This zombie western is about “a woman with revenge on her mind and the undead in her way.” Ages 16+: $15-40. www.wildclawtheatre.com

District Boo Yards/District Brew Yards: Oct. 12. Dress up your pooch and bring them to this brewery collective for a dog costume party; the winning pet gets their likeness on a Bold Dog beer label and the owner receives a gift card. Free to attend. www.districtbrewyards.com

Check out the Skeleton Grave Dancers among other fun attractions at this year’s “Pumpkin Lights” celebration on Navy Pier.
Check out the Skeleton Grave Dancers among other fun attractions at this year’s “Pumpkin Lights” celebration on Navy Pier.
Courtesy Navy Pier

Pumpkin Lights/Navy Pier: continuing through Nov. 2. For the first time, Navy Pier will host six installations of pumpkins and light displays with themes ranging from Pumpkin Picasso to Skeleton Grave Dancers. The destination will also host free trick-or-treating October 26-27 and 31 and brings back its annual adults only Halloween party October 26. Free to attend. www.navypier.org

“That’s Weird, Grandma: Goes Trick or Treating”/Neo-Futurist Theatre: Oct. 13-Nov. 3. Chicago elementary school students conjure up “stories about ghosts, orphans and silly horrors” in this avant-garde theater setting. All ages tickets: $10-20. www.barrelofmonkeys.org

Night Of 1,000 Jack-O-Lanterns/Chicago Botanic Garden: Oct. 16-20 and 23-27. Stroll the Garden’s pathways to see more than 1,000 hand-carved gourds of all crazy shapes and sizes (up to 150 pounds!) with creative designs. Adults: $14-16; children (3-12): $11-13 in advance. www.chicagobotanic.org

The Nightmare Before Halloween Tim Burton Experience/Headquarters Beercade: Oct. 17-Nov. 3. The arcade bar hosts a visual retrospective of the filmmaker’s greatest works with picture-perfect backdrops from “Edward Scissorhands,” “Beetlejuice” and more along with specialty drinks and boozy candy apples. Free to attend; food, drinks and games extra. www.hqrivernorth.com

Kathy Najimy (from left), Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker star in the 1993 film “Hocus Pocus.”
Kathy Najimy (from left), Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker star in the 1993 film “Hocus Pocus.”
Walt Disney Pictures

Hex-A-Long “Hocus Pocus”/Music Box Theatre: Oct. 18. The Sanderson Sisters return from the dead in this interactive screening event; prop bags are given out before movie time with cues for where to sing (or scream) along. Adults: $12; children (12 and under): $10. www.musicboxtheatre.com

The Attic Haunted House/Chase Park: Oct. 18-27. The Chicago Park gets a whole new feel after dark as it’s transformed into a spine-tingling haunted attraction “overrun by orphaned children trapped inside” the fieldhouse. Ages 13+. $10. www.desolateentertainment.com

The annual Arts in the Dark parade will take place along State Street on Oct. 19.
The annual Arts in the Dark parade will take place along State Street on Oct. 19.
Courtesy Arts in the Dark

Arts In The Dark/The Loop: Oct. 19. The 5th annual parade along State Street celebrates Halloween as an artist’s holiday with unique floats, spectacle puppets and creative performances followed by an after-party at Millennium Park. This year’s procession will bring together more than 80 contingents ranging from world-renowned organizations like The Joffrey Ballet and Lookingglass Theatre to After School Matters and aspiring artists in every field. Free. www.artsinthedark.org

Lil’ Monstars Halloween Bash/Hard Rock Chicago: Oct. 26. Designed for kids, this Halloween breakfast has a “decorate your own donut” station, buffet, costume contest, trick or treat goody bags and more. Ages 12 and up: $16.95; ages 11 and under: $10.95. www.hardrockcafe.com/location/chicago

Hope you have a pleasant stay at one of the “haunted” guest rooms at the Godfrey Chicago.
Have a pleasant stay at one of the “haunted” guest rooms at the Godfrey Chicago.
Courtesy The Godfrey Chicago

Haunted Hotel/The Godfrey Chicago: October 26. It’s a real-life American Horror Story as The Godfrey is overrun by all sorts of phantoms, fiends, and other fearful creatures. While the fifth floor is full of haunted guest rooms (including a clown hideout), the I|O rooftop bar has a circus-themed playground. Stay overnight if you dare and enjoy a costume brunch the next day. Ages 21+: $35. www.iogodfrey.com/hauntedhotel5

Halloween Haunted Party Cruise/Spirit Of Chicago: Oct. 26. Get all aboard for a Halloween party you’ll never forget. The vessel is decked out for the holiday and ready to set sail around the city skyline with decorations, live music and plenty of drinks and apps. Come in costume. Ages 21+: starting at $30. www.halloweencruises.com

Freak Show Halloween/Virgin Hotels Chicago: Oct. 26. For one night only, the hotel’s Commons Club and Cerise Rooftop transform into a thrilling circus with funhouse mirrors, contortionists, stilted performers, aerialists and more. Adults 21+: starting at $25. www.eventbrite.com

Haunted Halsted Halloween Parade/Boystown: Oct. 31. Named by Fodors as one of the best 10 Halloween events in the U.S., the annual spooky parade heads down Halsted with floats, crazy costumes and “best dressed” prizes; bars along the street will be open too. Free. www.northalsted.com

Disney in Concert: Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas”/Auditorium Theatre: Oct. 31-Nov. 1. The animated classic turns into a live extravaganza as the Chicago Philharmonic performs Danny Elfman’s iconic score in real-time. Costumes are encouraged. All ages tickets: $30+. www.auditoriumtheatre.org

Halloween After-Hours/Shedd Aquarium: Oct. 31. Come face-to-face with creatures from the undersea world in this special event at the Shedd that features pop-up animal encounters plus festive bites and creative cocktails. Ages 21+: $24.95 ($19.95 for Chicago residents). www.sheddaquarium.org

“Thriller” Dance Class/May I Have This Dance: Oct. 31. Learn the choreographed moves to Michael Jackson’s hit song in a line-dance format and enjoy goodies after. Costumes encouraged. Tickets: $26 in advance. www.mayihavethisdance.com

Chicago Hauntings Ghost Tours/throughout Chicagoland:year-round. This popular tour company, hosted by guide and paranormal expert Ursula Bielski, has prime events for the Halloween season. Hear stories of Resurrection Mary, the hauntings of Lincoln Park and more. Adults: starting at $40; children (8-17); starting at $29. www.chicagohauntings.com

Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.